The Regehr Trade: Perspective from Calgary
It’s time for some post-trade-stress-disorder analysis.
With Robyn Regehr, the Buffalo Sabres picked up the rugged, dominant defensemen that they needed to push teams around in the playoffs (instead of the other way around, as we’ve seen in recent history). We’ve already touched on the promise of Regehr, Kotalik, and that 2nd round pick before, but what are the pundits and fans in Calgary saying about what they got in return?
Brian Costello (Senior Special Editions Editor of of The Hockey News) was quick to fire off a neutral-site column about this trade, a piece entitled “Robyn Regehr Trade Makes no Sense for Calgary Flames.” Not the most auspicious title for Flames fans. From the column:
Why did Feaster think he had to be the one throwing in the second round pick? Shouldn’t Buffalo have been the team sweetening the pot? Was it that important for Feaster to get rid of Kotalik’s deal? Why wouldn’t he farm the winger in Abbotsford next year (like he did part of this season) or make him go away to Europe, the way Chicago GM Stan Bowman made Cristobal Huet and his $5 million go away a year ago?
If the rationale for the Regehr trade was freeing up salary cap space, shouldn’t Feaster have been trying to trade disappointing Jay Bouwmeester and his $6.68 million, or unproductive Matt Stajan and his $3.5 million, or stone cold Niklas Hagman and his $3 million? Not someone useful like Regehr.
Chris Butler is a No. 5-6 defenseman now. The Flames have a plethora of those in Brett Carson, Adam Pardy, Brendan Mikkelson and T.J Brodie. Those types of players can typically be purchased every July 1 for about $1 million or so. Butler has upside as a No. 3-4 defenseman and that will be absolutely necessary for Feaster to save face here.
Paul Byron is an undersized 22-year-old minor-leaguer who wasn’t ranked among Buffalo’s top 10 prospects in Future Watch. He has terrific offensive skills, but that may or may not translate at the NHL level because of his 5-foot-9, 170-pound frame.
A lot of things have to align for Feaster to make this trade look good. And if they don’t, it’ll look even worse when the toughened-up Sabres have a successful playoff run, then pile on by boosting their prospect system with Calgary’s second pick next June.
The Flame’s blog “Matchsticks and Gasoline” noted that this trade was going to need some serious analysis. They sat down for an “M&G Roundtable,” wherein Arik James collected his team of writers for some perspective. (Note: surnames of writers were not noted.) From Arik:
There’s a lot more going on here than meets the eye. But I’ll address the whys and hows in a different post. I’d like to talk about what this means for the Flames and their defensive corps going forward. The first thing is obviously the acquisition of Chris Butler. Now while he hasn’t been “great” so far in his career, it’s important to remember the development curve for defensive defensemen is exceptionally late. If Butler can develop as even a 3/4, the Flames won’t have terrible defensive depth. Just pretty bad defensive depth.
I suppose you really have to wonder what other teams were offering if Feaster did indeed like the Buffalo deal best (or if it was just the chance to dump Kotalik that sweetened the pot), but then again he’s not exactly a candidate for GM of the year. Re-signing Tanguay at the cost of his annual cap hit ($3.4M) probably could have been done without moving Regehr and/or Kotalik considering that there will be a number of unrestricted free agents whose salaries come off the books next Friday, so it seems Feaster has something else up his sleeve, which is, understandably, terrifying.
Overall, it’s hard to feel the least bit positive about this deal. It’s simply a continuation of the awkward middle-ground the Flames find themselves in between being average/capable enough to get by and horribly awful, although now we’re probably leaning more towards the ‘horribly awful’ side after dealing our best defenceman, which I suppose could be a plus in the long-run.
I don’t know, I think I’ve gone delusional.
In the end, the Flames have $7.5m in cap space and the freedom to do some things in free agency, which is a win. However, we’re down a top-pairing d-man without an immediate replacement in the top 4 and didn’t get a blue chip prospect coming back the other way. That’s disappointing.
I don’t think many teams out there are seeing Regehr playing much past his current contract. He is a D man who has to play physically to contribute, if that dimension of his game begins to soften what else does he have to contribute? Is he that incredible first pass out of the zone, is he that bullet from the point and PP QB, is he that fast D man who can save a goal on a broken play with a diving poke check? I don’t want to slag Regehr, I love the guy as much as any Flames fan but how he was seen on the market may not have been as high as many think.
His body has taken a lot of abuse over the years and he is not going to play till 41 like Lidstrom, I don’t think anyone is going to dispute me on that.
Ultimately this trade is all about Cap space for the Flames and trying to clean up a Sutter mess. Nothing else, they have taken some very high risks on Butler and Byron which may or may not work out. So if you were expecting this trade to improve the team for the season you have to be disappointed.
Essentially, the Sabres seemed to have ripped Calgary off on paper, but it’s not like Regehr is a spring chicken anymore – and that is the best way to look at this trade. Sabres fans may not really be getting the wholly dominant shutdown defenseman that they were hoping for in the slightly aged Regehr (at least not for the long term), and at the same time, Flames fans are getting a bit more than they immediately thought.
Byron still has a lot to prove at the NHL level, but Chris Butler is still an up-and-coming defenseman who may be quite good. It’s easy for fans to forget that Chris virtually skipped all of his pro development. After spending just 27 games in the AHL, the bulk of his pro hockey training and experience came at the NHL level.
Butler’s quick success in the big league was overshadowed by each defensive zone mistake that he made in the faster, meaner, mentally tougher NHL. Having virtually gone straight from the NCAA to the NHL, it may have been a bit unfair to judge his entire future on his developmental mistakes. Frankly, he did quite well for a guy who had the pressure of honing his pro game in the NHL, up until the point where he found himself as Tyler Myers’ partner at the end of this season. Flames fans should take heart – Butler does have a lot of promise.
For now, of course, there is a lot of panicking going on in Calgary. For the more adventurous, here’s the link to the Flames’ fan chat on HF Boards analyzing the returns for Regehr and that 2nd round pick. Let’s just say the people in that discussion are pretty ticked off.
They really have a hard case of post-trade-stress-disorder.
next post: Can the Shootout Revive Kotalik’s Career With the Sabres?